The extremists’ game is to play politics by throwing fuel to ignite democracy and stir up delirious militancy as much as possible, writes Marcelo Coelho

It seems that this time even the leaders of the European far right were shocked. Frenchwoman Marine Le Pen said that everything has a limit; the Northern League, of Italian right-wingers, and Danish extremists also raised their hands to say that there was already too much.

What could have caused this sudden moment of composure in people who are usually so foul-mouthed and dangerous?

These were the statements of the German Maximilian Krah, who was the main candidate of the hydrophobic “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) [Alternativa para a Alemanha, partido de extrema-direita] for the elections to the European Parliament. Krah was interviewed by an Italian newspaper and what he said did not go down well.

So, out of nowhere, he decided to state that, well, not all members of the Nazi SS were criminals. Many young people recruited to the organization (which, as is known, managed the extermination camps) “they were simple farmers who had no other choice”.

The AfD politician decided to take on the mask of a “magistrate”and also said that, without a doubt, there was an especially high proportion of criminals within the SS, “but I’m not going to say that someone was automatically a criminal because they were wearing the wrong uniform.”.

Maximilien Krah’s speech is a bit reminiscent of what Donald Trump said, when racist, neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan, and whatever else protesters held a mega-demonstration in Charlottesville, in 2017. A right-winger drove his car towards the activists who they opposed the mega-demonstration, killing one person.

“There are fine people on both sides”, Trump said. Both on the side of white supremacists and on the side of civil rights defenders.

This far-right tactic, well represented by Krah and Trump, is not uncommon. It consists of widening your eyes and looking innocent. “Hey, am I telling a lie?”

Maximilian Krah appears to strictly follow the commandments of the civilized constitutional order. “I will not convict anyone without evidence”. Or, as he said, “without knowing exactly what each person in the SS did, I can’t say that everyone there was a criminal”.

The trick, of course, is to pretend that you are speaking in environment A, when you are actually speaking in environment B.

If Krah were in a criminal court, and if a former SS member was on trial for what he did or didn’t do during the war, his reasoning would make sense. “Wait, Colonel Fritz was SS, but what did he actually do? I have documents here proving that he was hospitalized with kidney problems from 1938 to 1945.” Very well, the jury would conclude, you can’t convict this one.

However, Krah’s speech was not at the trial of a specific defendant. It was in an interview in a newspaper. He was not in environment A, the court, but in environment B, the European political arena.

And in this case, there is no imaginary “coronel Fritz” on trial. The only thing that is being exonerated, in Krah’s interview, is the SS itself, Nazism itself.

Likewise, from Trump’s soft talk, the only thing left is the defense of “nice guys” who belong to the Ku Klux Klan.

But everything is done in such a way that defenders of Nazism and white supremacy can pose as “wrongful”of victims of a biased press… What they say, purified from any context and reduced to a legal-literal sense, appears as if “it was no big deal”.

These people usually have good lawyers at their service. The game is to play politics, throwing fuel to ignite democracy and stir up delirious militancy as much as possible. But extremists like Krah do this by pretending to be impartial and balanced. They do this by pretending that they are in a Court of Justice.

There is, in the tactics of the extreme right, the use of pure and simple lies: fake news, conspiracy theories, straight-faced denials. But the use of “true speech” and to “impeccable reasoning” is no less dangerous.


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